Alcoa says output suspended at part of Saudi smelter

Aluminum producer Alcoa Inc said on Wednesday that its smelter at Ma’aden, Saudi Arabia, which is in its startup phase, has temporarily stopped production on one of two potlines.

The company said the potline was shut down “after a period of pot instability.” It does not expect any impact on customers.

Ma’aden, a $10.8 billion facility with smelter capacity of 740,000 tonnes per year, is run by a joint venture between Alcoa and Saudi Arabian Mining Co .

Aluminum benchmark prices on the London Metal Exchange briefly moved into positive territory after Alcoa released the news, touching an intraday high of $1,855.75 per tonne, up 0.32 percent, at 10 a.m. EDT. At 11:38 a.m. it was at $1,857.00.

The Ma’aden project is important to Alcoa, and not just because of its size. The company has said it should be the lowest-cost facility in the world, and it is ramping up as the industry pushes to cut expenses amid weak prices.

When Alcoa reported quarterly earnings last week, Chief Financial Officer William Oplinger said all potlines at the smelter would be operating by the end of this year.

Alcoa said on Wednesday that the affected potline should be back online between the first and second quarter of 2014. Ramp-up at the unaffected line will speed up.

The rest of the operation – which includes a mine, a refinery and a rolling mill – remains on schedule, Alcoa said.

Alcoa shares were up 0.7 percent at $8.44 on the New York Stock Exchange late on Wednesday morning.

(REUTERS)


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